Canada’s Ian Millar was all smiles after victory was his in the $1.5 million CP International, presented by Rolex, at the Spruce Meadows “Masters” Tournament on Sunday, September 14. After two rounds only he and Reed Kessler were able to negotiate two clear rounds over Leopoldo Palacios’ tough courses.
After watching Reed (USA) ride Cylana to a clean and quick jump-off time of 49.50 seconds Ian contemplated where he could slice off some time. Cutting a couple of corners just a bit tighter than Reed, he and Dixson crossed the finish line clear in 47.33 seconds claiming the victory and a half million dollar check for their win.
“To do this type of course it has to be a harmony between the horse and the rider. It is always thrilling when you hope a horse is going to do this and then they really do it. It’s nice when it works out,” commented a very thrilled Millar.
He’d entered the Spruce Meadows winner’s circle twice before (1987 and 1991) but those times were with his famous horse Big Ben. Once Ben was no longer able to compete he thought that would be the last he’d ever see of it until Dixson came along.
“I’ve had other horses during those years. I’d walk the course and sometimes I would look up at the sky and say, ‘Big Ben where are you.’ You don’t get that many great horses that many times in your life,” he acknowledged.
“Star Power (his other mount) is a great great horse and Dixson I think might be the real thing for me,” he added.
While Kessler would have loved to have landed in the winner’s circle, being second and garnering a $300,000 check was a bonus. Kessler, who now lives in Germany, made the decision to take the journey to Spruce Meadows. Little did she realize what a good decision that would be.
“My horse loves it here. She always has. Some of my biggest wins have been here. I really wanted to make sure I could come back and jump the Masters,” she commented.
“She loves this class and I know that one day if I can get it right she’s going to win it,” she concluded.
Third place finisher Marie Etter (SUI) was thrilled with her horse Admirable. “For me it is just a dream to be here. The finish was perfect. I’m not used to jump at this level. We don’t have a show like this in Europe. I was feeling small the first day and today I’m not feeling as small.”
Marie’s story with her horse gives his name true meaning. After she found the horse and fell in love with him when she saw his eyes (yes his eyes) she decided this was the horse she wanted. Everything was going well until the horse got colic, ended up having surgery and almost died. For two months while he was in the clinic she and her groom worked diligently to bring him back to health.
Eventually, Admirable got over the colic and got his strength back. But then something was different and Marie and Admirable have become a pair to reckon with. “Now, the connection is just amazing. I am really happy how he fight for me. When you feel your horse fighting for you and giving everything for you that is the best feeling.”
The smiles were clearly visible and even Leopoldo was happy. “It was a fantastic day,” he affirmed, adding that he didn’t do it alone but rather had a team of top professionals to work with, including the man who set the Washington International Puissance record on Sweet ‘n Low.
“Spruce Meadows always give me a good team here. Anthony D’Ambrosio was the Technical Delegate,” he added.
It was easy to be thrilled about Ian’s victory and Leopoldo expressed what everyone was thinking. “In the home country it is great for Ian to win,” he remarked.
Ian then spoke up again when asked about the check and how that compared to the past. “A million years ago a $5000 grand prix was the big deal. Now they won’t put the tack on their horse for less than $50,000. The way the sport has evolved is incredible. It is a different sport. You have to be fast, strong physically, be able to jump high and wide. It is a rare horse that is that good. The quantity of quality is so different.
“Nowadays all the horses in a class are good enough. You have to beat every one of them. Every rider and every horse is probably good enough to win. It is a set of circumstances that has to happen. It is that difficult of a thing to do so when it happens you’re really happy because it doesn’t happen every day. Our hearts go out to the lovely four legged animals that give so much of themselves.”
In fact, no truer words were ever spoken. In that same class that Ian dominated the winners of the past week also competed and none of them ended up negotiating the double-clear round that he and Reed did. This time the winner’s circle was waiting for Ian and a Canadian victory on Canadian soil.
During the awards ceremony, after Ian got presented with his check Brian Morton was presented with the Mercedes-Benz Leading Canadian Rider award and the keys to the vehicle he’ll keep for one year until next year’s winner is named.
For more information, go to www.sprucemeadows.com. To view more photos from this week go to http://www.dianaderosa.com/gallery3/index.php/Spruce-Meadows/2014.